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The Star Maker

Review

The Star Maker

It is rare that a book for children is able to explore fully, without being pedantic or rote, the various elements of a particularly rich ethnic culture. Laurence Yep, a Newbery Honor winner with over 60 books under his writing belt, explodes the wonders of Chinese New Year on us in his new work, THE STAR MAKER, the story of a young boy in a large family who makes a promise to his multitudinous cousins and, in doing so, charts an adventure into what makes his people tick.

Basing the novel around Chinese New Year, Yep is able to hone his anthropological skills in a focused and clear-cut fashion. The specific customs and celebrations that take place at this time each year are highlighted throughout the book, giving it a rich and varied backdrop. Of course, the story of Artie’s attempts to score fireworks for all the cousins for a big celebration is the real crux of the plot. How this young boy realizes that he has made a promise too big to keep, yet keeps it by learning some hard truths about grown-ups and his family, is something that middle-schoolers will relate to without difficulty.

A small boy for his age, Artie is always being bossed around by the bigger cousins, and THE STAR MAKER puts his difficulties into the context of so many interesting subjects --- growing up in general; growing up in a large, close, extended family; and growing up in that large family where ancient customs are still considered important traditions and enacted by all family members, even though the family lives in contemporary San Francisco. Yep is very adept at making the most mundane musings of Artie part of a first-class monologue that continues throughout the book, told in Artie’s honest voice. But when Artie teams up with scheming Uncle Chester, who has a thing or two to learn about being a grown-up himself, his culture clashes with his modern-day world, and we all learn something.

THE STAR MAKER is told in bright but easy-to-read language that will entertain readers at many different levels. Especially during those middle-school years when everyone just wants to be like everybody else, THE STAR MAKER makes a great case for how cool it is that we are all different and come from different places with different points of view. Laurence Yep has fashioned an entertaining but educational story that enhances our understanding of a centuries-old tradition and why its tenets make it a great celebration for young and old folks alike.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on December 21, 2010

The Star Maker
by Laurence Yep

  • Publication Date: December 21, 2010
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060253150
  • ISBN-13: 9780060253158